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Ozzy: Canine Megaoesophagus

Education > Patient Stories 23rd April 2019

Megaoesophagus may be present at birth or develop in senior dogs like Ozzy with no identifiable cause (idiopathic). It is diagnosed by a thorough physical exam, chest X-rays and diagnostic tests to rule out underlying diseases such as myasthenia gravis, hypothyroidism or hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease).

The oesophagus is a muscular tube leading from mouth to stomach. In megaE dogs, the tube is enlarged and malfunctioning. The muscles do not contract normally and food is not pushed into the stomach properly. Common symptoms include regurgitation, weight loss, coughing, excessive salivation, difficulty swallowing, which could lead to aspiration pneumonia and severe malnutrition.

Veronica and family chose to adopt Loki, Coco and Ozzy despite their age and health conditions. With patience and care, they are now a gorgeous trio - amazingly good natured and welcomed wherever they go.

"Caring for Ozzy was initially challenging with a lot of trial and error. We experimented with different food textures, cooking methods, meats and meal portions to see what worked best for him. We retrain Ozzy to do his potty before meals and stay upright after meals. On days when he isn’t feeling his best, we camp out in the living room so he doesn’t have to walk up the stairs to our bedroom."

MegaE dogs do better with small frequent meals a day. It is important to keep them in an upright position during meal times either by holding them physically or placing them in a specially made Bailey Chair. A soft neck pillow is also helpful during night and nap time to prevent excess saliva or food from pooling in the oesophagus.

"Advancement in vet medicine has made many diseases manageable and having the right vet who understands our concerns wins half the battle. Being part of a support network is also helpful for us to discuss our problems and brainstorm solutions with other families. For instance, I got inspired by a fellow MegaE dog mum in the United States to make a soft neck support for Ozzy. We keep a diary to identify the triggers when things go downhill. I also take photos or videos of the symptoms to show Dr Loh during our consultations."

Ozzy's medical condition is managed by Dr Loh Hui Qian of Mount Pleasant (Mandai). Ozzy is doing well on the current course of medications and dedicated home care. Nausea and regurgitation has greatly reduced. He is eating well, keeping food down and gaining weight.